I'd had the idea for a couple of weeks. With the spring sun slowly showing itself more regularly and getting warmer, I wanted to go looking for snakes to photograph which would hopefully be emerging from their winter hibernation by now. I had one unsuccessful attempt already up on nearby Ditchling Beacon in the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve last week with not even a sign, even though I remember seeing an adder there many years ago.
So I decided that the lowland heath at Chailey Common might be a good bet also with plenty of ground cover but still quite open prior to the spring greenery taking over. Walking slowly along one particular hedgerow with the dried remains of last year's bracken piled up in small heaps I heard a rustle. I pinpointed the source of the sound just in time to see a small serpentine head and neck have a quick look around and then disappear into one such pile. After staking it out for a little while a beautiful grass snake finally emerged to bask alongside its hiding place. I only managed to get a couple of shots before a friendly springer spaniel pup came bounding in to join me which put paid to any more views despite returning a couple of times later.
Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer
Moving on to check out more of the Common I came down to a small stream and marshy area with some willows. Through the trees I could see the site rumps of a couple of roe deer moving away in front of me and then more - four, five, six maybe in all and possibly the same small herd I had seen in an open field just a few minutes away on the drive over.
Once they had made a bit of distance on me they were content to watch my passing behind the cover of some downed trees. Once I had gone I am sure they probably melted back into the area I had unwittingly flushed them from.
Spring migrants are well on the move now and I was delighted to see a pair of beautiful stonechats following each other around the tops of the yellow-studded gorse bushes. I also heard my first chiffchaff of the year too while the buzzards were constantly circling around overhead looking for their next meal.
There were a large number of the curious little excavated burrows (above top right) which I take to be made by a burrowing bee or something similar but I am hoping someone will confirm exactly whose homes they were. The yellow bracket fungus was a nice surprise too adding a splash of colour I would normally expect to be looking for come the autumn.
There was one more sighting of an as yet unidentified flying object that has me puzzled. The 'little brown job' above I thought originally was with the stonechats but now I can see it more clearly from the photograph I am not sure what it actually is. If anyone knows please let me know via the comments section - thank you!